Written by: Christine De Bellefeuille
I have a saying that I use in each of my classes: “Listen to the intelligence of your body”. Often, when we are engaged in physical activity, we have a tendency to misuse our vessel. Many of us still abide by the old adage “If it hurts, it works”, or “No pain, no gain”, pushing the limits of our bodies to a point of injury.
This is a terrible idea. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
The key to knowing whether or not your movements are detrimental is being present with your body. During your classes, it should never be a case of going through the motions; you should always be paying attention to what your body is telling you to do, or to stop doing. You need to establish a strong neural-muscular connection to ensure each message your body is sending you is received, and understood.
How can you strengthen this mind-body connection? Firstly, you need to leave whatever’s happening outside; thinking about conflicts, to-do lists, or even groceries can distract from what your body is doing. Second, slow down. Everything is go-go-go these days, from texting, to e-mail, to fast food. Take a moment, breathe deeply, and you will feel everything just a little bit more. Give yourself time to reflect on the subtleties of your body. Lastly, remember “No Pain, More Gain”. When exercising, you want to feel the challenge in your movements, but you always want to stop before the point of injury. I want my clients to consistently walk out of their classes feeling better than when they walked in.
You must be an active participant in communicating with your muscles; you are the one in your own body, so you must decide if what you’re doing is positive or negative. You should constantly be asking yourself “Am I feeling something because I’m tight, or because I’m going to injure myself?” Asking yourself (and your coach!) these questions makes you more aware of your body, your positioning, and your limits.
In my days of professional dancing, pain used to mean that I was doing something the way it was instructed to be; few things are as painful as pointe shoes! Now, however, it’s all about quality of movement over quantity.
The clients who feel their very best after years and years of exercising are those that have developed the mind-body connection. It might not have been there initially, but through years of listening and learning, it has been established. The more you practice paying attention, the more the connection will improve! As I always say “Practice makes better”.